Environmental impact of the music industry

The climate discussion is unavoidable these days and I´ve been thinking about this for many years and would like to hear some other thoughts on this.

The amount of gear and instruments that are produced every year is way beyond me. Every year around the same time(s) we get flooded with announcements of new shiny gear that is supposed to induce serious GAS to as many people as possible while the new product basically is the same thing that offers only little (if anything) new to the table. While I totally understand that every synth sounds different and that there are plenty of different workflow philosophies I keep asking myself if it´s really worth it… I´m fairly new to the synth game but I´ve been in the DJ game for more than 20 years now and I just assume that it´s basically the same since all industries follow the same dogma: more, more, more… and when you have more, then even more.

In the DJ business the stagnation has been going on for many years and was only covered up by fancy PR lingo that overused the phrases “next level”, “game changer”, “revolutionary” etc. massively to the point where people just couldn´t hear it anymore. There hasn´t been any innovation in the DJ business since digital vinyl emulations and a few years later the controllers came out. How many times can you shift around the layout of an controller/mixer until you´re back at the beginning and haven´t done anything new but still need to act like it because that´s just how the business runs? And how many ressources are being used to get the basic materials for something that has basically already been around for many years, to get it constructed at the other end of the world and then shipped around the world again in quantities that in most cases exceeds the demand by far because this stupid system makes it more “affordable” to produce in high quantities and just “throw out” the leftover units. I always hated that mindset when ordering stickers or flyers, it´s cheaper to get 1000 flyers printed than 250 or 500 and most of it just ends up in the trash anyway, no matter if you couldn´t spread them all around or if the people throw it away after looking at it for a few seconds.

I think basically the same goes for the synthesizer industry. Now producing gear that has already been made decades ago seems to be popular just so more people have the option of using it. If they actually will is a totally different question and if they really need it… well, that´s a personal decision. I´m not intending to judge here or point fingers because I´m no exception really, I get serious GAS attacks regularly even though I already have a shitload of equipment, records, books etc. The industry spends more money on PR than on research and development because we are easy to play/being pushed into the direction they want us to and so far it worked very well for them.

And even though the awareness for the climate/environmental problem is rising it´s still business as usual and people still want more. Streaming is the next big thing for the DJ´s and the amount of energy the streaming services already consume is literally insane but apparently not insane enough to not have people asking for more. I quit buying vinyl records a few years ago after realizing that I kept buying them to only listen to them once or twice and then put them in the rack to never touch them again. While I keep good care of all my stuff in the end it´s just that: stuff. When we´re gobe that is all that´s left and it becomes worthless. I had a hard reality check last year when my best friend died and I helped cleaning out his apartment. He was a collector and had a shitload of stuff. Records, books, magazines, all kinds of collectables and even though we tried to spread as much as possible amongst our friends to keep some of it and have memories we still had a big container full of stuff that ended up on the landfill. For me that was the turning point to downscale as much as possible when it comes to stuff around the house. I sold hundreds of records (even though it doesn´t solve the problem, the stuff is still there and won´t dissolve into thin air even hundreds of years after I´m gone just as all the other gear that is being produced in the future and all the stuff that is already around), got rid off a lot of books and magazines that were just looking nice in the book rack and sold lots of DVD´s.

If I purchase anything new I try to get the digital version, 99% of the music I buy is on Bandcamp (I still refuse to use Spotify but that´s a different topic), I only buy movies on iTunes and ebooks whereever I can find them. Even though I actually prefer the real physical object the digital version is a compromise I can live with if it helps, even if it´s just a little. And obviously the digital realm has problems of it´s own but that is no surprise since it follows the same dogma as everything and everyone else: more, more, more!

I´m sure I forgot a lot of what I initially thought of writing on this but I´ll try to add it later and I´m sure you guys have enough input yourselves to cover this topic from various points of view and add input on this topic.

What are your thoughts on this whole “new equipment every year” thing, the way it is being produced etc. Do you try to take actions in your everyday life to lessen your personal impact on the environment? And this topic is really just about the music industry, I know that transportation, fashion, industrialized agriculture (this includes meat “production”, a phrase that is symbolic to how we lost respect for a living being and turn it into cold numbers, just like the phrase human capital for workforce), tourism etc. also have their huge impact on this whole mess.

What could be a step into the right direction to solve this? What to do with all the gear that is not being sold? How should companies approach the release of a new device? Should the whole industry scale down and limit itself to 1-2 new devices within a 5 year period to make sure they really have something substantial to offer instead of just flashy words?

And ironically we´re using the internet to discuss this topic on devices that are part of the same problem. But at least we don´t fly around the world to one spot to talk about it without any legal binding to whatever we decide and spend an amount of money on buffet and security that could easily finance a solar panel (for example) on every house in a small town to make them energy independent for most of the year.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


Here´s a link to an article about the plastic wrapping of new vinyl records to put things into perspective. He´s talking about the record releases of the US alone so imagine the global scale:

What you describe applies to all kinds of consumer goods, because our whole economic system is based on the concept of infinite growth. Our sense of entitlement to spend as many of the planet’s limited resources as we please regardless of whether it’s to guarantee survival or to distract us from the boredom that inevitably results from an endless sequence of dopamine highs in ever increasing frequency and decreasing intensity. For many of us the chase for the next thing has become an ersatz purpose in life to make the rat race somewhat bearable. Regulating the market won’t fix that. I believe it will take another major step in human evolution to transcend the concept of owning ever new stuff and that next level society is likely to be built on the ruins of ours. Mind you, the irony of me typing this in one browser tab while completion of my order for a high specced MBP 16" is one click away in another one doesn’t elude me.


I remember reading once about how despite being corny, the original Star Trek series was in many ways quite clairvoyant (bear with me here…). There’s a number of easy examples: the transponders, translators, talking to computers, sliding doors (!), even some of the more sci fi ideas, but underpinning these was this concept that humanity was driving itself to ruin until some big catalyst happened. Basically it took things really hitting the shitter for society to transcend and improve. I believe a WW3 or global collapse storyline ended up becoming canon in later seasons.

I’m no Trekkie, I know it’s just a bit of fun nonsense and I do write this a bit with tongue in cheek but it’s a useful framing of how I actually see things panning out. We’re headed for ruin and that ruin could last years, decades, maybe even centuries. But I’m convinced it will be the making of us. I’ll long have turned to dust by the time it happens though.

And this got heavy all of a sudden and way beyond the impact of the music industry haha. I’ve now got an image of some sentient Borg like synthesiser killer robots ruling over mankind and flying through space in gigantic Moog spaceships destroying worlds via ultra high frequency sound waves.


As long as we keep flushing our western toilets with perfectly drinkable water all future adaptations will be without a real foundation (in spirit).


Same goes for eating contests where people eat so much until they have to puke while most of the people on this planet are going to bed hungry or even worse.

I´m aware that this is valid for all kinds of consumer goods but that doesn´t mean that we can only sit back and act like it´s not our concern because it´s just the way it is. When regulating the market won´t fix it in your oppinion recent history has shown that deregulating it just makes it even worse. So we´re in kind of a pickle here…

I know it´s hard to just pick out the music industry to focus on when all this mess is related to everything else because it follows the same dogma. I just like to hear ideas on how we can make the situation better for our music making since this is the common ground we have on this forum while the biographies of the users will most likely be as diverse as it can get.


The music industry’s impact is negligible. Get rid of your car first.


Speaking of compostable toilets … I used some at a festival years ago and they were really pleasant…no odor and nice handcarved wooden features! Those portapotties are like a bad acid trip in comparison!


No it´s not, it´s a global industry and it has an impact. That other indurstries are worse doesn´t change that at all and is no argument. And on a side note: I never had a car.


agriculture is biggest … I guess I offset my GAS issues by only eating meat 1,2 times per month , not having a car and cycling to work and (the most controversial) not having kids … but the latter can be put down mostly to me being terrified to have them :slight_smile: Actually in fact I live in a crap town to drive in , just gridlock so cycling is a selfish pursuit too …


That’s not what Massive Attack nor Eno, Yorke, Byrne et. al. have said.


Bringing up the music industry in this context is whataboutism.


You obviosuly didn´t read the whole thing, Your reply is whataboutism at its finest.


Fortunately I’m not a touring musician so don’t yet have to worry about that aspect (if I did I’d probably do train). I buy vinyl and toys used, cause man do people GAS hard for the latest and greatest. I hope to see streaming and Bandcamp use renewable energy for their services.

I certainly wont stop you from changing the things that you believe will help. Carry on.

Since this thread explicitly asks for our opinions, I suggest you refrain from personal attacks if the opinions stated differ from yours.

On a side note, I never had a car either.

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Live shows are also a part of this when you just focus on the music industry, thanks for adding that. The energy consumption for this is really huge, coincidentally I´ve been a sound & light tech at a local venue for almost 15 years and can have a grasp on how much energy one show alone consumes.
Same goes for trade shows obviously.

From the article:

“…factors such as audience transportation and venue power account for as much as 93% of all the CO2 emissions generated by major music events.”

I think if everyone tried to be mindful about their purchases and actions things can improve drastically, the problem is all these false prophets misinforming and not practicing what they preach, actually do far more harm than good.

WRT music gear I always only purchase things that I believe are repairable and that I will get years of use from.

But really the whole “climate emergency” as a concept is a marketing strategy - obviously that isn’t to say we don’t try to be more environmentally responsible, or that man made contribution to global temperature is false, but that the solutions being offered are not adequate and more importantly often are actually worse. But as long as we have “useful idiots” being fawned over by a gullible public then I don’t see how things will get significantly better in the short term.

Do your bit as best you can is my philosophy and pretty much always has been.

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Who are you referring to? Leo? or Greta?

There is as much personal attack in my post as in yours. I´m not saying we can save the world by just quitting music but saying the impact is negligible just because other things are worse is no basis for a discussion that focuses on the music industry as one part of the problem.